IF I COULD TURN BACK TIME1 of 12As of Captain America: Sam Wilson #7, Steve Rogers is back in his youthful body and ready for action as Cap once again. Meanwhile, it was revealed this week that his rival in the film Captain America: Civil War, Tony Stark, would appear in his 20’s in a flashback scene – an effect achieved by digitally de-aging star Robert Downey, Jr.
If that sounds weird, you’re right. But it’s also a common trope in superhero comic books. Sometimes it’s a matter of a character’s origin making them too old to make sense as a superhero. Sometimes it’s a byproduct of time travel, or a simple story gimmick. Whatever the case, superheroes (and villains) aren’t typically constrained by the bonds of time.
It's happened more often than you might think - in fact, we've got ten of the best examples of superheroes being de-aged right here.
DOCTOR STRANGE2 of 12Doctor Strange has always been one of the more… mature heroes of the Marvel Universe, as evidenced by his graying hair and stately demeanor. But with a new movie on the horizon, where he’ll be played by geek heartthrob Benedict Cumberbatch, it stands to reason that he’d get something of a makeover along with his starring film and new solo title.
With the Marvel Universe having been reforged in the wake of Secret Wars - and Doctor Strange having died during the course of that story – the Strange in Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo’s current ongoing series is a little more a spring chicken than he was before. Gone are the white streaks and lined face, replaced by a Doctor Strange that Bachalo described to Newsarama as being in his early 30’s.
STORM3 of 12When the X-Men relaunched in the ‘70’s with an all new, international team of mutants, Storm was something of the team’s young ingénue. However, her wisdom belied her years, and she quickly became a mentor to younger recruits, and a pinnacle of Professor Xavier’s dream.
In the ‘80’s, the X-Men journeyed through a portal called the Siege Perilous that made the world think they no longer existed. In reality, they set up shop in Australia, and used their anonymity to continue operating as heroes. This lead to a chain of events in which she was captured – and presumed killed – by the cyborg known as Nanny. In actuality, Storm had been de-aged to her teenage self and left in an amnesiac state.
Though she quickly rejoined the X-Men, it wasn’t until “X-Tinction Agenda” that she was fully restored to her adult form.
SPIDER-MAN4 of 12“Brand New Day” didn’t technically reduce Peter Parker’s age, but it certainly de-aged his status quo. By eliminating his marriage to Mary Jane Watson, bringing back his high school best friend Harry Osborn, and making Peter a down-on-his-luck hero of the people, the intent of the controversial story was clear.
Now, several years on, Peter’s back to living like an adult, running his own company, sitting on millions of dollars in wealth, and globe-trotting alongside S.H.I.E.L.D. as Spider-Man. But it seems there will always be a teen Spider-Man, as Miles Morales recently joined the mainstream Marvel Universe as New York’s friendly neighborhood wall-crawler while throwback young Peter stories are told in Spidey.
MAGNETO5 of 12Magneto is pretty virile for a senior citizen. As a young man in World War II, he managed to survive the Holocaust – a fact that should make him almost 100 years old at this point. Or at least, he would be, if he hadn’t been de-aged so many times.
Probably because he’s such an integral part of the X-Men mythos, and such a popular, powerful villain, many writers have pulled rabbits out of their hats to keep the master of magnetism alive and kicking well past his prime.
Magneto was once de-aged by genetic tampering from Moira MacTaggart – a fact to which he did not take very kindly. He was also granted youth by Kang the Conqueror in exchange for a good old fashioned supervillain team-up.
CABLE6 of 12Nathan Summers never really got much of a childhood, having been whisked away to the future to be raised as a living weapon against Apocalypse as an infant. But he got a second chance at that childhood when he was de-aged to infancy during House of M.
Somehow, despite most of the House of M reality being undone, baby Cable managed to make it into the mainstream universe in the arms of his off and on partner Deadpool. The infant Cable rapidly aged to childhood, using his psychic powers to fix Deadpool’s brainwashing, even though it cost him his powers.
With the help of Forge and some mind-bending plot twists by Fabian Nicieza, a "teleportation harness" is used to coalesce the all the remnants of Cable into one adult version. Pretty typical day in the life of a cyborg son of a clone from the future.
HAL JORDAN7 of 12The greatest Green Lantern of them all, Hal Jordan, was once also the Green Lantern Corp’s greatest foe. After his home of Coast City was destroyed, Hal went kinda bazonkers and tore apart the Green Lantern Corps, seizing most of their rings for himself, and eventually becoming the villainous Parallax.
By the time this happened, Hal was no longer the brash young test pilot of his early adventures, but an old warhorse with the gray hair and grizzled attitude to match. Hal eventually redeemed himself, sacrificing his life to save the Earth.
But when he came back in Green Lantern: Rebirth, he returned in his prime, not as the aging ringslinger he had become. That story not only resurrected Hal Jordan, but also the Green Lantern Corps he had destroyed – and, in the long run, his legacy.
MONSTER GIRL8 of 12Invincible’s Monster Girl is kind of a unique case on this list. De-aging isn’t a one time circumstance or story quirk for Monster Girl – it’s kind of her whole deal.
Monster Girl is an adult woman who has the power to turn into a giant monster. The only catch is, when she returns to her human form, she always comes back younger than before.
So while she’s developmentally in her 40’s, she’s got the physicality of a 20-something. Aside from the side effect of turning into a monster, she’s living the dream of many folks who can’t handle the aging process.
TONY STARK9 of 12In the ‘90’s, even the most cutting edge superheroes sometimes needed a new coat of paint. That’s how Superman got his mullet, Jean-Paul Valley became Batman, and Tony Stark… Well, Tony Stark was replaced by his own younger self from an alternate reality.
Through the manipulation of the time-traveling Kang, Tony Stark became a traitor to his compatriots in the Avengers. In a desperate move that foreshadowed what would later happen in All-New X-Men, the Avengers summoned a younger Tony from the past – and from an alternate reality – to help defeat his adult self.
Teen Tony did indeed help end the fight with Kang, but in the aftermath, he was the only Stark left standing. He remained Iron Man until “Heroes Return” undid what was undoubtedly one of the least popular Avengers stories for decades, returning adult Tony to the Marvel Universe.
And in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there's slight echoes of that as Robert Downey Jr. took part in sa scene as a 20-something Tony Stark in Captain America: Civil War aided by some special effects wizards ala Benjamin Button.
RAY PALMER10 of 12Zero Hour was a time-spanning attempt to rectify some of the gaps in DC continuity that had arisen after Crisis On Infinite Earths had rebooted their universe. As a result, several characters underwent odd status quo changes – but perhaps weirdest of all was what happened to Ray Palmer, the Atom.
Palmer was de-aged by the time manipulations of the villainous Extant, taking him from being an adult scientist to a teen adventurer. Palmer went on to lead an incarnation of the Teen Titans for some time.
Palmer had re-aged – and regained memories he lost as a result of being made younger – by the end of the series, and that chapter of his life, along with the no-name squad of Titans he lead, fell into obscurity.
Oddly enough, Zero Hour also had the effect of re-aging the Justice Society, who had been reduced in age and given enhanced lifespans in a retcon by Roy Thomas, who credited their longevity with an encounter with a classic foe. By the end of Zero Hour, the JSA had been returned to their original ages, causing several of them to simply age to death on the spot. Many of the characters were re-de-aged when they were reintroduced in the New 52's Earth 2.
LOKI11 of 12Loki was once Marvel’s greatest villain, menacing numerous heroes for decades, and even inadvertently inspiring the formation of the Avengers in a scheme to bedevil his brother, the mighty Thor. His last act – in this form, anyway – was undoing some of his greatest mischief by defeating the Sentry after he had gone crazy.
But after Loki’s apparent death, he was reborn – it’s kind of a thing for Norse Gods – but he came back in a slightly different form. The new Loki emerged as a young child, whose mischief often played off his relative innocence, and who sought to forge a new legacy as a hero. Sadly, this young Loki’s consciousness was later subverted by the old Loki’s personality, though he continued to operate as a hero.
Eventually, Loki had to re-age himself somewhat, becoming an “Agent of Asgard” in the process. So while he’s no longer the youngster who was briefly a member of the Young Avengers, the net result is still a God of Mischief who is a lot younger than he was when he first appeared.
1 of 12
2 of 12
3 of 12
4 of 12
5 of 12
6 of 12
7 of 12
8 of 12
9 of 12
10 of 12
11 of 12
12 of 12